Dragon*Con 101

Getting there:

  1. For flights, you should be checking at least 5 months out.  Occasionally airlines will have deals that pop up for a day or two, and this is the time to get airline tickets the cheapest.
  2. Dragoncon tries to setup special deals with airlines for ticket prices, but I have found nothing cheaper than Southwest/Jetblue when getting there from Raleigh. We purchased a 1 way from RDU to ATL for $50. As with most flights, pay attention to hidden fees like checked baggage!
  3. When you get into the airport, do not bother with a cab.  Atlanta has MARTA, a train system that will take you directly to Peachtree Center. To get there from the Airport go towards baggage, and take a right. Buy a $1 marta pass and put enough money on it for 2 trips. Then exit at PeachTree Street. There is sometimes a friendly officer at the top of the escalators that will direct you to the correct hotel. Typically it’ll just be a block or two of walking to your hotel, depending on where you are staying.
  4. For people who are driving, Atlanta is a city.  A big one.  It has rush hour just like every other city with a large population.  When you are arriving in town, make sure you work around the rush hour traffic if you can.
  5. Parking at the Hilton and Sheraton $22/day while Hyatt and Marriott are $32/day.  If you are there from Thursday to Monday, this can accumulate pretty quickly for a car that you are likely not even using too often.  However, the fee for a lost ticket, is 3 days or $66 – $96.
  6. Another strategy for parking is to drop off your luggage at the hotel, drive to one of the Marta stations with long-term parking (Brookhaven, Dunwoody, Kensington, Lenox and Sandy Springs are $5/day) and take the Marta back to your hotel. This can save big bucks in the long run.
  7. After dropping off your luggage, pick up your passes at the Sheraton. Cash is quicker than the credit card line by far.

Dragon*Con Hotels:

downtown-atlanta

  1. The best place to stay in the Marriott. It’s the center of the entire convention. There are A LOT of people at Dragon*Con and only a few elevators so for convenience, the best level to stay is around the 10th floor. The elevators are at max-usage during the con (You may have to wait around 5 minutes for one going in the right direction), but fortunately they all stop at the 10th floor, which means you can hop on to the first elevator you see open up and get to the 10th floor.  Then if you are on floor 9, or 11, you can walk up or down a single flight of stairs to get to your floor.  It sounds like more walking, but it is worth it.
  2. If you stay much lower than floor 7, there is a chance that at night you will hear the dull roar of the con.  It is not terrible, similar to a light white noise.  The doors do a very good job of canceling out most of the sound.
  3. The 10th floor of the Marriott does not have any rooms on it.  Instead it has an observation deck with plenty of space for Photo Shoots, or just hanging out and eating dinner.
  4. If you want the true con experience, there is no substitute for staying at one of the big 3 hotels (Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton).  The Sheraton and the Westin will offer you a similar experience, but without as much congestion.
  5. Yes, you can cram many people into a hotel room. Yes, you should be sanitary about it, and use common sense. If you’re cramming people in a room, it’s VERY helpful getting a double bed. Fitting 2 people per bed, and 2 on the floor is quite cozy but doable. In a single bedroom, 2 on the bed and 4 on the floor is a bit harder but still technically doable.
  6. Generally the hotel staff know that there are not going to be just 2 people in a room.  Feel free to try for multiple room keys.  If you get “No-Sir’d” then just hit up the front desk later in the day and tell them you lost your first key. If any additional charges are added, you can always speak to the front desk to have those charges removed at the end of the convention.
  7. But do not lose your room key.  The best way I have found to do this is to carry your Dragoncon Pass on a lanyard, and then punch a hole in your room key, and attach the key to the lanyard.  Your Dragoncon Badge and Room key are in one central location.
  8. Do not lose this lanyard.  It has your Dragoncon Badge.  Your hotel stay will get much more complicated if that happens.
  9. Sky bridges are Air Conditioned and more scenic, but they are a lot slower.  If you have a panel to get to quickly, take to the streets.
  10. You will forget what hotel you are in.  It happens.
  11. If you have to check out before 11am on Monday, but have some panels to get to, the hotels have a baggage service that will hold your bags.  You can pick them up later in the day and still make it to the events that you are looking for.
  12. Each of the 5 host hotels will also have Dragon*Con TV in their hotel rooms. Keep your TV’s locked to this for live streaming of panels, and entertaining shorts.

Food and Drink

  1. Store non-perishable food in your hotel room.  This will save you many dollars that could be better spent on merchandise and autographs.
  2. Do not plan on having a Fridge in your room unless you have called your hotel and confirmed that there will be one. And even then, you may not end up with the same room you booked.
  3. If you consume adult beverages, bring a cooler in case there’s no fridge in your room. Attack the ice machine immediately. The adult beverage stores and bar prices in the area are not budget-friendly.
  4. On the non-weekend days (Thursday, Friday, and Monday), the Marriott has a continental breakfast.  It is located on the 42nd floor, and you will need a room key to open the door. We’ve personally seen Brent Spiner and George Takei eating there. And I am not above pocketing some fruit for later in the day.  They will end service at 9:30AM.
  5. Metro Cafe is pretty good food, and is more importantly open 24/7, for those late-con nights. The falafel place in the food court is superior to Metro Cafe in quality for half the price. Corner Bakery also comes recommended.
  6. If you’re going to lunch/dinner at a venue and you have more than 5 people, note the time of day. If it’s during peak meal hours, arrive early enough that you can wait the 30-60 minutes for the table without being grumpy. Don’t expect prompt, professional service unless the menu prices suggest otherwise. Bennihanna? That steak place on the main strip? No problem. Metro Cafe with a table of 8-12+? Not a good choice.
  7. 41HiaVtjK1LIf you need Incidentals, there is a CVS that has opened a few years ago that has everything a normal CVS does.  Because it is a normal CVS.
  8. The food area in the Mall at Peachtree Center is usually pretty busy and most chair are taken. If you’re lucky to be in a group, have one person hold the table and chairs while the rest of your group goes to go get food. Additionally Portable Stools make for great extra sitting room. If you’re alone and see a free chair Make New Friends by asking if you can sit with them. 
  9. You may be able to find fruit like apples, bananas, and some snacks at the Marriott pool.

People:

  1. Do not ask to take pictures of people in the middle of walkways.
  2. Seriously, don’t take pictures of people in the middle of walkways.
  3. If you do ask to take pictures of people, move to the side, out of the walkway.  No one likes having Batman’s expanded cape blocking their path.
  4. Be nice and respectful to the volunteers. They have to put up with a lot of crap and are pretty good sports about it unless you’re a jerk. Additionally, don’t argue with the staff. At best, they’ll ignore you. At worst, you’ll perpetuate whatever situation they’re trying to address or correct and you’ll delay that resolution. If they say “MOVE” or “CLEAR THE AREA,” just do it and try to understand why they’ve been asked to do so. 90% of the time, it’s Fire Code – and Dragon*Con already dances on the fine line of Fire Code violations for capacity.
  5. Allow those who need to exit to do so first, then board the elevator. If you’re going up from a much lower floor or down from a much higher floor – move to the back. Note: restrictive costumes that pose a hazard traversing stairs are pardoned along with the disabled.
  6. If you have business cards, this is a perfect time to bring them.  Things will always be in motion, a business card is a great way to give your new friend your information in a timely fashion.
  7. If you are looking to take pictures of people in costume, the best way to do this is to look into the Dragoncon Photo Shoots facebook page:
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/341362562585709/
  8. Most people get business cards from http://www.vistaprint.com/. We found business stickers to be awesome as well http://us.moo.com/products/business-logo-stickers.html

The Con:

  1. It is busy.  Really busy.  You won’t believe just how busy it is.
  2. The Con Suite will be the best thing that has ever happened to you.  It has free food and soda throughout the convention.  It is open near-24/7.  The quality of food (and types) varies hour-to-hour, but if you happen to find yourself in the Hyatt, it will be worth stopping by to get a quick pick-me-up of some mountain dew or nachos.  It is located just above the main lobby, so if you take the stairs up one level, you can find it in the corner.  Easily identifiable by the crowd of people outside the door.
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    DragonCon App (A MUST HAVE)

    Get the Dragoncon App when they release it in August.  It has all the information, scheduling, maps, everything.  Everything.  get it.

  4. If you are hot from the August air, head to the gaming room in the Hilton.  They keep the A/C going strong in that area, so it is a great place to take a break and cool down.
  5. While you are in the game room, consider observing,  or joining a game of Wolf. There are tons of indie games that are being and tested and their creators are eager to teach you how to play! Some include free prizes just for trying out a new game. Magic the Gathering Tournaments happening ALL the time. Dungeons and Dragon and Pathfinder games go on down here, or up the hall on the second floor.
  6. If you are heading into a panel solo, you can usually find a seat up front.  Plenty of people enter and seat in groups of 2-4, leaving random one-seats by themselves.  If you are entering a little before the panel begins, head to the front or ask one of the very helpful Dragon*Con Volunteers and do a quick scan for an empty seat before settling on something in the back.
  7. Conversely, if you are a tired, do not be afraid of sitting in on a panel you are passing by that you know nothing about.  You will get a quick rest, and you might learn something.
  8. You will not get a cell phone signal.  You may get a signal, and if you do, you are lucky.  Hold on to it and never let it go.
  9. Whether or not you get a cell phone signal, you will still run your cell phone’s battery to death.  Playing games while waiting in line, texting friends your location (when it does work), or checking the Dragoncon app to see what is going on are all ways to destroy your battery quickly. Carry your cell phone charger EVERYWHERE! Like in airports, outlets are in high demand. 
  10. To that end, the first thing you do when you enter a panel, before you sit down, is to find an outlet and plug in your phone.  Try to get a seat within eye-sight of it.
  11. power-stripWant to make friends?  Carry a Power Strip.  If you are charging your phone,tablet or computer, there is a chance that more people will want to charge their phone as well.  If you provide everyone with outlets, you will become a god among men.
  12. Carry and use hand-sanitizer.  Con-crude is real.  There are a lot of people, many will be attending Dragoncon despite carrying the plague.  The best way to fend off their plague is to wash and sanitize your hands often and thoroughly.
  13. Panels happen every hour. Always ask what panel a line is for as you’re walking by. If you see a short line for a big name celebrity that’s starting soon, consider changing your plans and hopping in line.
  14. Accept cool things that happen and don’t go too far into “Mission Mode”. I almost passed up playing a game of Magic the Gathering with it’s creator, Richard Garfield, because I had my schedule blinder’s on. It’s the journey, not the destination. 
  15. The approach I take to the Con is to pick out 2 or 3 panels, and prioritize those panels.  Arrive as the line begins forming, and stick with it until the panel begins.  If I do this only a few times each convention, I am not missing out on everything else that goes on.  It is pretty easy to lose track and spend the entire convention waiting in line for things.
  16. Alternatively, just never wait in lines. One of the biggest secrets to Dragon*Con is to never wait in line. My second year of attending Dragon*Con I tried to not wait in line at all and just used the empty seat trick trick above to get good seats 5 minutes before the panel was starting for the entire weekend. Turns out it worked perfectly. Standing in line can suck up a HUGE amount of time and you’ll be missing out on all the cool things you could be doing at Dragon*Con. If you can help it don’t wait in line. Spend that time at more panels, checking out more costumes, eating, or sleeping.

Safety:

  1. Dragon*Con as a whole has a great family friendly atmosphere. It’s always a good idea to take precautions when interacting with such an awesome and large group of people. 
    • A) Be aware of your stuff.
    • B) You may get accidentally pushed and shoved.
    • C) Drunk people get rowdy at night.If you bring children or come with friends, be aware that you may not be able to contact them due to cell phone reception issues and the crowds can get pretty busy at times. Make sure you have a meetup location if either of you get lost or separated.
  2. Try not to travel alone at night on empty side streets. Atlanta has REALLY beefed up security and safety in recent years, but it’s always a good idea. Have a buddy.

Equipment:

  1. Backpack
  2. Snacks
  3. Small Water Bottle
  4. Power Strip
  5. Your Cell Phone Charger
  6. Portable Compact Battery Charger 
  7. Cooler for hotel drinks/food
  8. Reading material or game devices to pass the time if you’re waiting in line.
  9. Optional: Portable Stool (Well worth the price) great for waiting in line, being used as a mini table, actually having a seat while eating at the con suite or cafeteria area, setting your phone off the ground while it’s charging, or getting a more stable shot while sitting with camera.